Uruguay vs Germany
For evidence of just how much the play-off for third place at the FIFA World Cup™ means, you only have to go back to the summer of 2006 and recall the determination with which host nation Germany rounded off their campaign with a 3-1 victory over Portugal in Stuttgart. It was the same for 1990 hosts Italy, who bounced back from the huge disappointment of semi-final defeat to Argentina with a spirit-lifting 2-1 success over England.
And the showdown for the final place on the podium often proves most rewarding for dark horses that have lit up a tournament, such as Sweden at USA 1994, Croatia at France 1998 and Turkey at Korea/Japan 2002. What’s more, with the pressure off and coaches’ tactical leashes loosened, these games can result in end-to-end football, chances aplenty and goals galore.
Uruguay-Germany, play-off for third place, Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, Saturday 10 July, 20:30 (local time)
This is the second time Germany and Uruguay have met to contest third place at a FIFA World Cup, with the pair doing battle at the same stage of Mexico 1970. At the finals 40 years ago, Die Nationalmannschaft had lost a semi-final thriller 4-3 to Italy, while La Celeste had been downed 3-1 by eventual winners Brazil, with the Germans snatching third spot thanks to a solitary 26th-minute strike from Wolfgang Overath.
The two teams also met in the quarter-finals at England 1966 in a match Germany won 4-0, and again at Mexico 1986, when the pair’s group meeting ended 1-1. In conclusive proof of their historical upper hand, of a total of nine international matches between the duo to date, Germany have won six and suffered only one defeat, which came at the 1928 edition of the Olympic Football Tournament.
Not that Oscar Tabarez’s charges will let the record books concern them, having exceeded all expectations with the country’s best FIFA World Cup performance since lifting the Trophy for the second time at Brazil 1950. As they seek a victory which would crown their impressive showing on South African soil, striker Luis Suarez returns after missing the semi-final defeat against Netherlands through suspension while captain Diego Lugano should be fit to play after missing said game with a knee injury. Leading scorer Diego Forlan, meanwhile, has been declared fit to play despite a knock against the Dutch and, with four goals so far, is only one strike behind adidas Golden Boot pace-setters Wesley Sneijder and David Villa.
Speaking of in-form forwards, the spotlight will also no doubt fall on Miroslav Klose, now just one goal behind the all-time FIFA World Cup record of 15, set by Brazil’s Ronaldo. However, his appearance in what will be Germany’s 99th match at the competition is in doubt after suffering he suffered a back injury against Spain on Wednesday, while midfielders Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira’s participation is also in doubt. German coach Joachim Low is therefore expected to give a run-out to squad players such as Serdar Tasci, Dennis Aogo and Stefan Kiessling.
Players to watch
Miroslav Klose vs Diego Forlan
This duo of vastly experienced strikers have four goals apiece so far and will be determined to further their respective Golden Boot hopes by finding the net again at the Port Elizabeth Stadium. The lethal pair both picked up knocks in their sides’ semi-final defeats, however, and may struggle to fire on all cylinders come Saturday evening.
10 – The signs suggest that the match for third place is unlikely to go to extra time, given that Germany’s last ten games – including friendlies – have all had a winner after 90 minutes.
What they said
Joachim Low, Germany coach:
Obviously we now have to get over our disappointment, lift the players’ spirits and prepare for this game just as seriously as we would any other. We want to finish the World Cup on an upbeat note because, despite losing the semi-final, we’ve had a very good tournament. I’m really proud of my team.
Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay coach:
This will be a difficult game, but we’ll go into it with the same attitude and commitment that we showed against the Netherlands. There’s no guarantee of winning, we’re preparing to do everything we can to clinch third place at the World Cup for Uruguay. However, I know Germany will make it very difficult for us, so we’ll have to fight to our last breath if we want to win.
What kind of match do you think we are in for? Will it be a tight encounter or an open game, with both sides fully exploiting their attacking potential?